Monday, February 18, 2008

Creating patient flows: the next big event management opportunity

It is the era of free market economy (or almost!?) in India - the marketing or selling across of ideas, concepts, products, and services is inevitable. Marketing operations need to be intensified to ensure that products and services reach the patients; as patients will not come to the product or medical or healthcare service, through serendipity or just naturally ... there is simply too fierce a competition out there for patients. After all, pharmaceutical products (allopathic, herbals, and homeopathic), healthcare products and services, and the healthcare insurance premium business all run on the one factor: PATIENT FLOW! There is also a phenomenon of explosion of professionalism in India. Branding of healthcare services and products is no more an esoteric subject and the preserve of a few creative and innovative types. All players are attempting to be innovative and creative. Branding and brand building is now recognized as a business necessity & not an indulgence. So healthcare product and service providers are all brand building savvy and interested in this activity. Hence, marketing has become just that tougher, with more competition.
Patients are the bread and butter providers for doctors, clinics, hospitals, pharma companies, para medical professionals, healthcare agencies, and healthcare insurance companies. For the advanced healthcare providers like Narayana Hrudayalaya, Wockhardt, Manipal Hospital ... global medical tourists too provide bread, butter, and jam...! So the focus of healthcare product and service companies is to strengthen the patient flow to their offerings, and develop a loyal base of patient pool (strengthen the word-of-mouth among the prospective and actual patients).
What do you see in the above picture of a line of patients?
In the above picture each person sees opportunity according to his or her needs: the physiotherapist sees arthritic patients in need of his service, the clinician sees patients who will pay him the consultation fees for the service rendered, the Pharmaceutical marketer sees each patient as a potential buyer of his products, the Healthcare insurance company sees prospects for purchasing his insurance products and paying regular premiums, the neighbourhood pharmacist sees a line of potential buyers of his medicines (who will come for prescription encashment, and possibly there will be some auto purchase too by the patients), and the diagnostic lab sees potential for conducting tests. The patient flow is the life of all these business activities.
OH! WHAT IF THE PATIENT FLOW IS L..O..N..G..E..R.. is the wish of all the marketers and the service providers detailed in the above paragraph ... that is the need of the marketer and the healthcare entities... and that need of the marketer or healthcare entity can be addressed by the EVENT MANAGEMENT COMPANIES.

Illustration one:
Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis opportunity: The top ailments in India are osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. The bones become brittle and fragile in the former, and in the latter, there is a breakdown of the cartilage (a rubbery cushion-like tissue in the synovial joints like the knees and hip joints). Calcium based formulations and drugs that increase calcium deposition in bones are prescribed in osteoporosis. Yet the osteoporosis opportunity is not tapped to the full extent. Yes, Pharma companies do conduct OSTEOPOROSIS CAMPS in league with hospitals, but the campaigns are not sustained, mainly sporadic to tap in to some patients and reach the sales figures for the quarter... Imagine a multi crore national project of a company like Elder (marketing Shelcal) ... given to an event management agency whose brief will be to launch SHELCAL BONE WEAKNESS AWARENESS CAMPS in clinics, hospitals, clubs (like Rotary and Lions clubs), women colleges (because women are the most susceptible to osteoporosis), women clubs (Mahila mandals) ... at the non clinic venues, neighborhood doctors can be involved ... this approach through an event management company makes sense since the regular field force has other products to promote and other priorities. What the field force can do is follow up on the doctors. The event management company can follow up through database mailer marketing too ... the brand equity of Shelcal will go up and the sales too in about a year's time ... it is a marketing risk worth taking.

Illustration 2:
The cancer opportunity: There are said to be about 25 lakh patients of cancer at any given time in India. Most are head, neck, oesophageal, and lung cancer cases. In fact, Delhi has the world's highest gall bladder cancer cases (in women), while Bangalore has the world's highest oesophageal cancer cases in women. Thanks, to high tobacco consumption/smoking, Mizoram and generally speaking, the Eastern parts of India have higher incidence of tobacco related cancers. The most important point is that 70% of the cancers are diagnosed at the advanced stage in India, thus chemotherapy drugs become supportive and not the first - line therapy. Now, imagine, a company like Cadila or some other Pharma company launches a sustained cancer detection campaign THROUGH AN EVENT MANAGEMENT COMPANY in certain geographies - like breast cancer detection in urban areas like Mumbai and Delhi, oesophageal cancer in Bangalore, and gall bladder cancer disease in Delhi ... what will be marketing results be for the company and the society?

Event management companies with a single focus for sustained campaigning on specific issues will augment the overall marketing - communication efforts of the Pharma company (including the sales force). The result is a greater brand buzz, market building activity, and increased sales...

There are lots of nitty gritties involved in an approach as the above - controls, feedback systems (can it be online and real time?), follow ups, ROI ... all need to be worked out.

There are several issues that can be handled on a campaign basis by event management companies in league with sponsor brands to ENHANCE PATIENT FLOW:
a) drug induced nutritional deficiency (may be Becosules will be interested)
b) stress and fatigue (may be Revital will be interested)
c) oesphagitis, Barretts oesophagus ( a precancerous condition), and oesophageal cancer (may be Aciloc will be interested)
d) anemia - including masked anemia
e) asthma and respiratory disease camps conducted for retail chains and sponsor brands
f) dermacosmeceutical concepts, retailers, and brands
g) HIDDEN HUNGER in children (which may be of interest for Horlicks)
h) prediabetes and diabetes awareness camps
i) diabetic complication awareness camps
j) obesity awareness (particularly through the simple tape measurement method for recognizing abdominal obesity)
k) nutrition awareness
The scope is wide and the need is real. Thanks for reading this blogpost, please do read all othe blogposts too, scroll down and click on OLDER POSTS if required.


DR. RANGESH said...

Dear Chiplunkar ji,

Indeed a novel idea and a very noble thought of networking all the disciplines and the end user, the patient. Probably this may fulfill the goal of all the concerned including the recipient. This also ensures the value based and an appropriate health care service, since the government service unfortunately is in no way reaching the people. If this is realized and the entire units join together it will definitely revolutionize the health status of our people, thus fulfilling the dream of a healthy nation with people empowered with health.

Praying for the realization of this megadream.

Dr. Rangesh.

Sunil S Chiplunkar said...

Respected Sir:

Many thanks for your visit and kind comments.